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On the state of Union with God.

AMONG the higher forms of Christian experience, as we find them described, by writers on experimental religion, there is a state of mind, which we find denominated the state of UNION. It is also frequently called, by a phrase which intimates the same thing, the UNITIVE state of mind.— This state of mind is not unfrequently implied and even described by devout writers, without a formal mention of it by name. Archbishop Leighton, for instance, speaks of the Christian, who perceives himself "knit to God, and his soul more fast and joined nearer to him than to his own body." The following prayer is ascribed to John Climacus, many centuries since a devout and learned recluse of Mount Sinai. "My God, I pretend to nothing upon this earth, except to be so firmly UNITED to Thee by prayer, that to be separated from Thee may be impossible. Let others desire riches and glory; for my part I desire but one thing, and that is to be inseparably UNITED to Thee, and to place in Thee alone all my hopes of happiness and repose." These expressions indicate a full belief, on the part of this devout person, of the existence of the state of present mental union with God, as well as earnest desire for it. There are repeated allusions to this state of mind in the works of Kempis and Tauler; writers, who, although Catholics, are favorably mentioned by Luther; and have always been much esteemed by Protestant christians. Sir Henry Vane, one of the English Puritans, a man religiously as well as politically memorable, wrote a religious treatise, which in part had express relation to this subject, entitled, ON THE LOVE OF GOD AND UNION WITH GOD. Many pious persons in more modern times, and in different denominations of Christians have spoken very emphatically of their union with the Divine Mind; and in such way as to leave the impression, that they considered the state of union as a distinct and peculiar, as well as a very desirable and eminent modification of Christian experience. "Time would fail me," says Lady Maxwell, "to tell of the numberless manifestations of divine love and power. I have, though deeply unworthy, been favored with such wonderful lettings into Deity, as no language can describe or explain; but the whole soul dilates itself in the exquisite enjoyment; so refined, so pure, so tempered with sacred awe, so guarded by heavenly solemnity, as effectually to prevent all irregularity of desires. These, with every power of the mind, bow in holy subjection before Jehovah. Surely the feelings of the soul, on these memorable occasions, are nearly similar to those enjoyed by the heavenly inhabitants. I have it still to remark, that all my intercourse with God the Father is strongly marked with that superior solemnity and awe which lay and keep the soul in the dust, yet raised to that holy dignity, which flows from a
consciousness of union with the Deity."

FIRST.— Proceeding now to make a few general remarks in explanation of the subject, we observe, in the first place, that the name, unitive state or state of divine union, is derived from the peculiar state of mind which exists. The precise state of the soul, stated in general terms, seems to be one of close and ineffable conformity with the Divine Mind. It is called the state of union, therefore, simply because it is such. We cannot help regarding this state of mind, if it be rightly understood, as a scriptural one. Is it too much to say, that there is a recognition of it, in those remarkable and to some persons inexplicable passages, which are found in the latter part of John's Gospel? Passages which, however mysterious they may appear to many at the present time, have nevertheless a real meaning; and as the church advances in holiness, will undoubtedly be made clear and full of import in connection with the personal experience of multitudes. "Neither pray I for these alone; but for them also, which shall believe on me through their word. That they may all be ONE; as thou, Father, art in me and I in thee, that they also may be ONE IN US, that the world may believe, that thou hast sent me. And the glory, which thou gavest me, I have given them, that they may be ONE, EVEN AS WE ARE ONE. I in them and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in ONE; and that the world may know, that thou hast sent me; and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me." John 17:20, 23.

SECOND.— The following principle appears to lay at the foundation of the doctrine of DIVINE UNION, as we find it represented in various writers, viz. That all moral and accountable beings, just in proportion as they are freed from the dominion of sin, have a natural and inherent tendency to unite with God. Of the correctness of this principle, when properly understood, there does not appear to be any reasonable doubt. It is nothing more nor less than this, that holy beings recognize in each other a mutual relationship of character, and are led, by the very necessities of their nature, to seek each other in the reciprocal exercise of love. In other words, nothing appears to them so exceedingly good, desirable, and lovely as holiness, whenever and wherever found. Accordingly, just as soon as we feel, that our sins are pardoned, and have an inward consciousness, that faith in Christ, who is "the way, the truth, and the life," is working by love and purifying the heart, we begin to feel also a secret union with the Savior, not only as our atoning sacrifice, but as a
holy being, and as a true representative of the Divinity in the flesh. And just in proportion as we grow in grace and become free from sin, we shall find this state of union with the Savior increasing. And union with Christ, (a real union such as that of the branch, when it is united to the vine,) is followed, in the natural progress of the religious life, by union, through Christ and in Christ, with God the Father; in accordance with the remarkable prayer of the Savior, which has already been referred to, "that they all may be ONE; as Thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be ONE IN US." And it is in accordance with this view, that Lady Maxwell, whose religious experience, especially in the latter part of her life, is exceedingly interesting and instructive, remarks in expressions, which convey an important truth, though perhaps liable to be misunderstood, "Jehovah teaches and enables me to pass through Jesus, as the way to himself." In a single word, union, (whether we look at the subject in the light of nature or in the light of God's word,) union, pure, strong, inseparable, and without regard to natural or physical differences, is the one great and necessary law of holy beings. Just in proportion as our sin is taken away, the element of separation is taken away; and the soul, delivered from the clogs which fastened it to that which is not God, returns instinctively and unerringly to the Infinite Centre.

And it should not be forgotten also, that there is the same tendency on the part of God, a tendency which his holy nature renders necessary and invariable, to enter into this intimate union. No matter how inferior holy beings may be; they may be mere insects in capacity; still the holy heart of God loves them, seeks them, becomes one with them. In a very important sense, inasmuch as their holiness cannot be regarded as self-originated, they are a part of himself by their very nature. Hence the doctrine, so distinctly and strikingly laid down in the writings of Dr. Cudworth. Speaking of holiness, he says, "If it be but hearty and sincere, it can no more be cut off and discontinued from God, than a sunbeam here upon earth can be broken off from its intercourse with the sun, and be left alone amidst the mire and dirt of this lower world. Holiness is something of God, wherever it is. It is an efflux from Him, that always hangs upon him and lives in him; as the sunbeams, although they gild this lower world, and spread their golden wings over us, yet they are not so much here, where they shine, as in the sun, from whence they flow." The necessity of this union on the part of holy beings, and on the part of God, as well as on the part of other holy beings, seems to me to be clearly implied in that beautiful passage of Scripture, "God is LOVE, and he, that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him."

THIRD.— We remark again, in the third place, that union with God, considered as a form of Christian experience, is not a physical union, an union of essence with essence physically, but a moral and religious union. It would hardly be necessary to make this remark, were it not, that some pious writers on this subject make use of strong expressions, which may be easily misunderstood and misapplied, but which obviously were not designed to be and ought not to be taken in their physical or literal import. The passages of Scripture, which recognize and which require the union of the regenerated mind of man with the mind of his Maker, or with the mind of Christ, are in some instances exceedingly strong, and seem to require a modified interpretation. All that is necessary is, that we should exhibit in other cases the discrimination and candor, which generally characterize our interpretations of the Scriptures. But, although we are not to understand from the language of the writers on this subject, that there is a physical union, or a union which would imply in any sense the loss of our own personality and accountability, they undoubtedly mean to teach the existence and the reality of a moral and religious union, as close and intimate as such an union possibly can be; an union entirely analogous, in all probability, to that pure and blessed union, which existed between Christ Jesus considered in his human nature, and his heavenly Father.

FOURTH.— The existence of the unitive state does not necessarily imply inward manifestations and raptures of an extraordinary kind. On the contrary, such manifestations, and joys and raptures of a remarkable character, which would be likely to attract attention to themselves as distinct objects of notice, and thus nourish the life of Self, would be unfavorable, rather than otherwise, to the existence of the state of mind under consideration. This state of mind implies, however, the existence, in the highest degree, of those two great elements of the religious life, to which the reader's attention has been repeatedly called, viz. Consecration, which separates us from every known sin and lays all upon the altar of God as a perpetual sacrifice; and Faith, which leaves all in God's hands, and which receives and accepts no wisdom, no goodness, no strength, but what comes from God as the true source of inward and everlasting life. Consecration renounces the ALL of the creature; faith recognizes and accepts the ALL of God. Consecration implies the rejection and hatred of all evil; faith implies the reception and love of all good. The one alienates, abhors, and tramples under foot all unsanctified natural desires, aims, and purposes; the other approves, receives, and makes a part of its own self, all the desires, aims and purposes of God; and both are implied and involved, and are carried to their highest possible exercise, in the state of divine union.

FIFTH.— The mind, in the state of union with God, is disposed to indulge in subdued and affectionate acts of contemplation, rather than in examinative and discursive or reasoning acts. It is undoubtedly the case, that the mind may remain fixed upon God and and may be in a certain sense united to him, in what may variously be called a perceptive, reflective, or discursive manner; that is to say, engaged in a perceptive or speculative view of him, occupied in the critical examination of his various attributes, his justice, wisdom, and goodness, or something of the kind. But something more than this kind of union is implied in the state of mind, which we are now speaking of. The examinative or discursive state of the mind implies the presence of God to the intellect merely; the contemplative state, although not altogether excluding an intellectual view, implies his presence to the heart. And it is on this ground that we make the remark, that the mind in the state of divine union, is rather contemplative, than perceptive and examinative.

I have sometimes supposed, that something like the unitive state of mind, which it is so difficult to describe, might perhaps exist in the case of a blind child, who has an attentive and affectionate father. The child, being blind from birth, has visually and perceptively no distinct knowledge of his father. But he knows there is an object present to him though unseen; and that this outward and unseen being is ever beneficent and ever active in securing his happiness. He has but an indefinite and obscure notion of his form; and is not capable of any accurate analysis of his character; but his mind rests in the general complex idea of an ever present being; who, although he is unseen, and in many of his attributes is essentially unknown, is nevertheless the precise object, which of all others is the most fitted to secure, and is the most worthy of his love. It is thus, contemplatively rather than discursively, that his father is ever present to his thoughts, and is ever the object of his almost adoring affections.

SlXTH.— The state of divine union may exist under two modifications; the one characterized by our being distinctly conscious of its existence, the other without such consciousness. The union of the human with the divine mind, when it is once originated, is not easily broken. The fact, for instance, of our being taken up at times with indispensable worldly cares, does not necessarily destroy the state of union, although we may not be distinctly percipient or conscious of it at such times. But what we wish to remark here is, that the state in question, whenever it is the subject of distinct inward notice or consciousness, seems to be characterized, among other marks, by a tendency, not only to inward contemplation, but to outward silence. At such times the soul appears to know but one object, and that is God; and to have but one feeling, and that is love. It is drawn inwardly; and outward objects seem to have but little influence. Hence words are few. It has but little disposition to express even what itself feels. In fact, the conversation, which is carried on at such times between the soul and God is too high for human language; and what is more, it is carried on with a Being, who can understand the soul's meaning without the medium of human speech. The conversation is with God, and not with men; and is in God's manner and not after the manner of men; and, therefore, it would be difficult to repeat it, even if there were a disposition to do it. The soul, in its attitude of serene and fixed contemplation, continually but
silently repeats to itself sentiments of trust and adoration, of gratitude and love. God recognizes the import of this hidden language and returns it, by condescendingly unveiling himself in his amiableness and benevolence. There is a constant flowing and re-flowing of affection; love ascending to God and love returning; so that there is not only a consciousness of love to God on the part of the person; but what is yet more striking, there is a consciousness, or rather a deeply wrought conviction, that God loves him in return. He can say in the beautiful expressions of the Canticles, "Thou dost place thy left hand under my head and with thy right hand Thou dost embrace me; and thy banner over me is love."

SEVENTH.— It is very obvious, that this state of mind cannot be fully understood, except in connection with inward experience. In the language of the author of the Life of Sir Henry Vane, "Divine life must have divine words; words which the Holy Ghost teacheth, to give its own character." [Life of Sir Henry Vane, anonymous, printed in 1662.] Therefore we will not attempt to pursue the topic any further than to say, that the state of union with God, when it is the subject of distinct consciousness, constitutes, without being necessarily characterized by revelations or raptures, the soul's spiritual festival, a season of special interior blessedness, a foretaste of heaven. The mind, unaffected by worldly vicissitudes and the strifes and oppositions of men, reposes deeply in a state of happy submission and quietude, in accordance with the expressions in the Epistle to the Hebrews, that those who believe, ENTER INTO REST. So true it is, in the language of Kempis, that "he, who comprehendeth all things in His will, and beholdeth all things in His light, hath his
heart fixed, and abideth in the peace of God." And in the language of Blosius, another devout writer of early times, such holy souls "enjoy the most calm and peaceable liberty, being lifted up above all fear and agitation of mind concerning death or hell, or any other things which might happen to the soul, either in time or in eternity." How can there be otherwise than the peace of God, pure, beautiful, sublime, when consecration is without reserve and faith is without limit; and especially, when self-will, the great evil of our fallen nature, is eradicated and subdued. What higher idea can we have of the most advanced Christian experience, than that of entire union with the divine will, by a subjection of the human will, When the will of man, ceasing from its divergencies and its disorderly vibrations, becomes fixed to one point, henceforward immovable, always harmonizing, moment by moment, with God's central and absorbing purposes, then we may certainly say, that the soul, in the language which is sometimes applied to it, and in a modified sense of the terms, has become not only perfected in faith and love, but "united and one with God," and "transformed into the divine nature." — "He, that is joined to the Lord, is one spirit." And from that moment, in its higher nature, and so far as it is not linked to earth by sympathies; which its God has implanted, and which were smitten and bled even in the case of the Savior, the soul knows sorrow no more; the pain of its inward anguish is changed into rejoicing; it has passed into the mount of stillness, the Tabor of inward transfiguration, the Temple of unchanging tranquility.

Oh, sacred union with the Perfect Mind!
Transcendent bliss which Thou alone canst give!
How blest are they, this pearl of price who find,
And dead to earth, have learnt in Thee to live.

Thus, in thine arms of love, Oh God, I lie.
Lost, and forever lost, to all but Thee!
My happy soul, since it hath learnt to die,
Hath found new life in thine Infinity.

Oh, go, and learn this lesson of the Cross;
And tread the way; which saints and prophets trod,
Who, counting life, and self, and all things loss,
Have found, in inward death, the life of God.